Saturday, 24 March 2018

Recommended Reads: Spring

In the spring I like to read light, happy books - things like romantic classics, fairy tales or anything with a happy ending and a touch of fantasy! These are just a few of my favourite reads that I think are perfect for spring.


Anything by Jane Austen
To me, Jane Austen just screams spring. Whether it's because the stories take place in the English countryside, or because the book covers themselves are always light and floral and pretty - I just love me some Jane Austen in the spring. My personal favourites are Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion - both are beautiful love stories, one about discovering new love from dislike and one about rediscovering old love. Mansfield Park and Emma (the two books shown above) are the two Jane Austen classics I hope to get too this spring. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A lovely children's book about a secret garden (it's in the title, so no spoilers). The book itself explores childhood neglect and the healing powers of friendship, love and the outdoors. It's all about new beginnings and rejuvenation, and that seems like a very appropriate spring theme to read about. While the children are some of the biggest spoiled brats I've ever read about - I did enjoy this book and think it's a quick spring read!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
Another book by a classic female author - Jane Eyre is, arguably, one of the first truly feminist novels. The primary character, Jane Eyre, is an independent woman - who does not not compromise her beliefs or herself in the pursuit of love. While a long, and sometimes slow novel, it is a book about the power of one woman over the trials and tribulations she faces in her life. Jane is an amazing heroine - and her journey of self-discovery, self-reflection and love seems like a great book of discovery for this season that celebrates new beginnings. 

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - this weird and zany story by Lewis Carroll has enough of the mad and fantasy to be a wonderful book to read while sitting in a park. It's a short novel, and it's full of madcap characters and crazy riddles and poems. 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine 
Yet another fairy tale retelling, this one perhaps one of the most famous. Though it was butchered by the movie (which I enjoy but realize is NOTHING like the book) the book Ella Enchanted is amazing - it is about a strong young woman discovering her inner strength in a very cruel and trying situation. In particular, the romance with Prince Char is so well done, sweet, and truly well-developed and believable - it is not well replicated in the movie at all. Seriously, the book this time is so much better - a story full of magic, romance and strong heroines and all about discovering your inner power!

The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson 
Or pretty much anything by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson's books are historical fiction stories usually set between the 1920s and 1940s. The Secret Countess follows the story of a refugee Russian duchess who takes work as a scullery maid at an English manor. The story is light and sweet, the characters are enchanting, and the romance is more romantic than fiery - definitely the sweet sort of love story I enjoy reading in the spring. 

The Shadow Reader trilogy by Sandy Williams 
This is one of my favourite faerie urban-fantasy series I've ever read. The series explores the adventures of McKenzie, a shadow reader, who can read between the dimensions of our world and the world of faeries, and can see the fair folk. For me, faeries always see to make me think of springtime and this is a wonderful adult faerie novel for people looking to expand beyond YA-faeries. The books have adventure, love triangles and a badass female heroine and for the most part they are fairly YA-friendly - with little of the erotica elements common in many other urban-fantasy novels. 

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn 
This is probably the most underrated fantasy series I've ever read. It has such a complex and wonderfully built world - with it's own well laid out religion and magic system that is both well-explained without being an info-dump. Furthermore the stories focus on strong female characters and try to create strong female friendships, and while romance exists it is never the central focus of the series. The first book, Troubled Waters, is a necessary read to introduce yourself to this wonderful world by Sharon Shinn. With it's strong ties to "elemental magic" the magic of the book talks a lot about the earth and the elements, and discusses land and nature in a way that, to me, is very reminiscent of spring. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
While this is not my favourite stand-alone fantasy, I can't deny its popularity, or that it is a fantastic spring read. This book deals with an evil dark forest that is slowly taking over the countryside, and has earth magic that is so well described you can imagine the taste of the magic at certain points. It is earthy, and well-written, and is highly popular - the characters just weren't my cup of tea. However; I believe that most people would enjoy this book more than I, and I believe it makes a great darker read for spring, with a sinister forest that takes over - perfect for when the world is waking up from winter.

Books: Shadowfell Trilogy, Daughter of the Forest, Deerskin, Wildwood Dancing, Heart's Blood
While I was making this list, one name kept popping up to me - Juliet Marillier. All of her books just scream "spring" to me - I think because most of the ones I've read are fairy tale retellings, and often deal with self-discovery and new beginnings. Furthermore, so many of them deal with dark, lush forests and leafy green settings that simply seem spring-y. The above listed books are just a few of my favourites by this amazing author - but pretty much anything by her you can't go wrong. While I do place warnings on some of these books (Daughter of the Forest and Deerskin) for rape and abuse, Wildwood Dancing and the Shadowfell Trilogy are YA novels and are less dark in the plot without sacrificing the emotional punch Marillier's stories. Heart's Blood and Wildwood Dancing are, in particular, two of my favourite fairy tale retellings ever - they are magical, but with such real and understandable characters who tear out your heart. Just go read Marillier because she is so underrated in the blogging community!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Badass Lady Heroines

Today is International Women's Day and in honour of this wonderful day to celebrate women and their achievements, and to discuss women and their role in society I thought I would highlight some of my favourite female characters. For me, a badass heroine doesn't necessarily mean someone who is physically badass - it is a woman who is her own person, who breaks barriers and boundaries, who fights for her beliefs. There are so many different types of women and types of female characters in novels that I want to highlight all the badass ladies I can! So here are just a few of the female book heroines I love and admire. 

Jim Kay's Illustration of McGonagall
1. Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I mean I could pretty much put any female Harry Potter character here - I love both Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood to bits and think they are amazing role models for young girls and women as they embrace themselves and never act different to fit in. But I wanted to highlight another female character in the Harry Potter series and that is Minerva McGonagall. McGonagall initially comes off as a rather strict school marm persona - but you soon learn that underneath she is a kind and courageous woman with a heart of gold. McGonnagall has such a tragic back story (go read it on Pottermore if you haven't had a chance) and is an example of a strong woman who rose above her tragedy, who is both powerful and smart and unashamed of this. So few stories feature strong older women, and McGonnagall's portrayal has stayed with me. She is exactly the kind of woman I want to be when I get older.  I love the fact that she is unapologetic about her beliefs and her loyalties, that she is strict but fair, and that it is never in doubt or hidden how absolutely brilliant she is (hello, she's one of nine registered animagus - she is brilliant!). Professor McGonnagall is much admired by Hermione, and so you know she's a badass when another paragon of female awesomeness looks up to her. 

Keria Knightley as Lizzie Bennet in the 2005 adaptation
2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
So as everyone should probably know by now my favourite book of all time is Pride & Prejudice. I know some people dislike the romance heavy marriage-focused style of Austen's books, but I find that her female characters are still strong and engaging. Elizabeth Bennett in particular stands out as a heroine unafraid to speak her mind, even to men, and to stand up both for herself and her sisters. She is loyal (look how she is with Jane), and intelligent with a quick wit and a sharp tongue. And she absolutely loves to read (something I related to so much when I first read the novel and it really stuck with me). Furthermore, Elizabeth has flaws - she easily judges others (prejudice) and must learn to overcome her quick opinions in order to grow as a person. Every person has flaws and to see this protrayed as a point of growth in a novel is refreshing in a world where so many female heorines are simply empty foils for readers to place themselves into. 

3. Fire from Fire by Kristin Cashore
Fire is proof that you don't have to be an assassin to be a badass. Fire is a monster, a beautiful creature with the ability to control and influence the minds of others. However; despite this immense power, Fire uses her gift rarely and only for the greater good. While I've heard some say Fire is meek compared to Katsa from Graceling, I think Fire is simply another way of being a strong female character. She is physically strong (and good with a bow and arrow) but what is emphasised more is her compassion and kindness and her strength. Fire doesn't overpower people unless necessary and instead tries to understand others and help them. She is an excellent example of someone who is diplomatic and chooses words over swords - and for that I think she is an excellent heroine, one that is very different from the usual fantasy heroines we read about. And if that isn't enough, she's also a badass woman of colour (don't let the book cover mislead you - it's mentioned specifcally in the novel) and that is still so rare in high fantasy. 

Megan Fellows (Canadian Queen) as Anne Shirley in the 1985 TV series 
4. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
I fell in love with the Anne Shirley character when I was 8 yrs old and went to PEI for the first time and saw the Anne of Green Gables musical. She just seemed so amazing and fearless - and I related to her so hard when she smashed her slate over Gilbert's head after he teased her (I had wanted to do that to so many boys). While I wasn't always a huge fan of the Anne novels (I am now thankfully), I always was fascinated and drawn in by Anne the character - as were many people in the world. Anne is a force of nature - she is passionate and intelligent, with a temper as red as her hair. I love her faults and her tantrums, and how through the novels we see her grow and mature from this. I loved that she was top of her class with Gilbert and that she NEVER dumbed herself down (which I can't thank Lucy Maud Montgomery enough for - a celebration of smart women in the early 1900s is no joke). Anne is a character so many children can relate to, and her journey through the Anne novels is a delight to witness. 

5. Kestrel from The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkowski
Kestrel is one of my favourite female heroines in YA. She is such a complex character - someone who is smart, cunning and fearless. She uses her brain to outwit her opponents, and through The Winners Trilogy is the brain behind so many operations. Even her own father is aware of her intelligence and wishes to use it for military advantage. Kestrel is also a character with faults - she is addicted to winning at all costs and commits some pretty atrocious acts throughout the novels. She is certainly flawed, and in the second book is almost an anti-hero in a way. And yet her struggles are relatable, and she never changes her core self, even after the heart breaking last novel she remains true to who she is as a person. It takes a lot to stand up for your beliefs, particularly against your country when you think they are wrong - but Kestrel does it with strength poise and cunning.

Fan Art of BFFs Inej and Nina **
6. Inej Ghafa and Nina Zenik from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
Inej and Nina are AMAZING. They are absolutely wonderful female characters who are both separate and distinct in their personalities and yet portray such amazing role models. Inej is such a strong character - who is clearly suffering from trauma over sexual abuse - and is also a skilled thief. She is strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable and she inspires even the darkest of souls (Kaz Brekker) to care for her with her pure heart and core of steel. And then we have Nina, my sweet waffle Nina, who I love more than any other character in Six of Crows. Nina is the kind of person who can make any situation light hearted - she is funny and intense and flirtatious and throws off all the men around her. And on top of that she can stop your heart with a flick of her fingers. I love that Nina embraces her appearance and uses it to her advantage - and isn't shamed for doing so. And the thing I love both about these women is how much they love each other, and what good friends they are to each other. I hope in future novels we see an Inej and Nina reunion because they are BFF goals. 
** ALSO - if anyone knows the artist for this fanart PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I would love to credit them properly, as I just had it pinned from a tumblr page that had no mention of the artist

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre in the 2011 adaptation
7. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Finally, we have another classic heroine from English literature - Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is a feminist icon pretty much. Her story is filled with tragedy and yet Jane is unwavering in who she is and what she is about. Jane is aware of her strengths and weaknesses, and embraces every aspect of herself. She does not compromise herself for a man (Mr. Rochester is the worst I'm sorry), nor does she fall swooning into his arms. When the twist of the novel comes, Jane remains strong and does what she needs to for herself - without the help of any of the men in her life. And at the end of the novel, Jane does as she chooses and as she wishes (even though some readers like myself, may hate the choice) and you have to respect her for that. Jane is an individual who knows her self and her worth and never accepts anything less than that. And what could be more badass than that amount of confidence? 

So those are 8 badass ladies from books that I admire and look up to! This list should have been harder to make because there are so many awesome female characters out there, but surprisingly these were the ones which first popped into my head and which stuck there while I was writing this post. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

January 2018 Wrap-Up

So I started off my reading year in 2018 super strong! I read an insane amount of books for the month (on top of taking legal qualifying exams - which were stressful as hell). I completed 16 books in the month of January and most of them (10!) were Non-YA! Some were even non-fiction! Given my Bookish Resolutions for the year I am extremely happy with that start. However; I did break one of my bookish resolutions and ended up buying quite a few books this month... so oops. In my defense, some were for free, and I didnt buy as many as normal but I still clearly will have to work to control myself next month so that I don't spend my limited funds on all the books I want. 

Books I Read
# of Books Read: 16 (HOLY CRAP?!?)
YA v. Non-Ya: 6 Ya, 10 Non-YA

1. Monarchy by David Starkey (Audiobook, Narrated by David Starkey) - 4/5 Stars

David Starkey is on of my all-time favourite historians. I have watched his BBC documentaries at least a 100 times, and I absolutely adore his voice. SO when I found out that he reads an audiobook of his work... I simply had to have it. This book was a more condensed version of his famous documentary series - Monarchy - and is the period from the rise of the Tudors to the modern age. Once again, Starkey manages to write history in a captivating and fascinating way, without bogging us down with inane details. His voice is just as soothing as ever and after a stressful day I found myself craving time to just come home and listen to him. 

2. Fire by Kristin Cashore - 5/5 stars
Totally not planned, I re-read the first two books in the Graceling Realm Trilogy at the beginning of January. Fire is still one of my absolute favourite books of all time. Re-reading this, I did notice that it was a lot slower paced than I remembered and that one of my favourite characters (Archer) was.... not as charming as I remember from the last time I read this a few years ago. However; I still overall love this story about Fire and her quest for freedom and acceptance, and I still adore the slow-burn romance. This novel is such a feminist fantasy gem and I wish more people read it. I also wish Kristin Cashore would release more novels sets in this world! Three is not enough!

3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore - 4.5/5 stars
This is the first book in the Graceling Realm Trilogy, and once again it was a wonderfully feminist book to re-read. Katsa is a take-no-prisoners, bad ass heroine who slowly regains her humanity throughout the story after years of being treated as nothing better than a thug. Po is my favourite character in the whole story - I think he is wonderfully swoon worthy and not your typical male YA love interest. He understands Katsa's desires and wants and respects her abilities. The only reason this isn't a full 5 stars is because there were a few minor things here and there that annoyed me - I did find that Katsa felt the need to put other women down a lot and maintained her whole "not like other girls" demeanour. For a book that is so feminist that's obviously a problem, but I attribute it more to the fact this was written years ago.

4. Harry Potter: A History of Magic by JK Rowling, The British Library - 4/5 Stars
This is the companion novel released by the British Library to coincide with their exhibition celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter. Obviously, once I got it for Christmas I had to read it ASAP. This was different than I was expecting, I thought there would be more about how JK Rowling developed the world, but there was simply a lot of history regarding magic, some of which Rowling used in the world of Harry Potter. However; I did still really enjoy reading through this and immersing myself in the world of Harry - I particularly love that the book was divided into the school subjects and loved reading Rowling's original drafts, drawings and notes. It was a nice glimpse into the world Harry Potter, although as a member of Pottermore I definitely didn't learn anything new that I hadn't before. Overall, it was a fine edition to my Harry Potter collection. 

5. The Bear and Nightingale by Katherine Arden - 4/5 stars

This book took me a while to get into - it is definitely a book you have to be in the mood for and for the longest time I wasn't in the right mood to read it. It took a dark snowy night for me to really begin to engage with the story and to become completely immersed in this fantastic Russian-set fantasy. I curled up in my bed with some tea while a blizzard was outside and the atmosphere of the story just swallowed me up. This is a beautiful novel. I've said the word atmosphere already but there is no better way to describe this book - it was atmospheric in every sense of the word. It is not an easy book to read - and many times I was frustrated by the small-minded characters and religious fanaticism. But at the same time, it was well-written, and  the characters motivations were understandable even though they drove you mad. I loved our main character Vasya, she is an independent and modern spirit who is trapped in medieval Russia. She is exactly how I think all fantasy writers should write their "special" female heroines - she was admirable and strong, but still had her faults and failures. I also really enjoyed the villain characters - the stepmother and the priest are the WORST and multiple times I was so enraged by their behaviour I had to put the book down. But at the same time, Katherine Arden has written them to be complex and compelling villains - and while you hate them you still sometimes sympathise with them. This book had moments that were so hard to read because they were so real - Katherine Arden truly captured the spirit that is how awful people can be to each other, and in doing so has captured beautifully the very essence of humanity. It was a very moving read to find myself hating the villains but also pitying them - in a way I rarely do. I also was amazed how much was conveyed in this novel though it was so short - much longer fantasy works have achieved much less world-building. Overall I really enjoyed the story. The only things I disliked was I found the story to be rather slow-going at first, it took me about 100 pages before it became un-putdownable, and the story felt somewhat incomplete. I realise that there are two more books in the series, but this first novel felt like a very long prologue to a larger adventure. I have already bought the next book in the series and look forward to reading it soon! 

6. Fearless by Jennifer Jenkins - 3/5 Stars
Every once in a while I pick up a series written by an indie author because sometimes I will discover a new favourite series (like the Air Awakens series by Elise Kova). A few years back I picked up Nameless by Jennifer Jenkins and really enjoyed the story - it's a very Romeo and Juliet story that is set in an rather sketchily laid out fantasy world in which various tribes battle and rule for dominance. One tribe, the Ram, has come to dominate all the others - the Kodiak, the Raven and the Wolf - and taken many of their members for their slaves. The series begins with a Wolf spy, named Zo, entering Ram territory in the guise of a healer, and and striking up an unexpected friendship with a Ram soldier named Gryphon - all while risking her life trying to protect her sister and her people by spying on the Ram. The first book in the series was very engaging, but upon re-read I noticed a lot more flaws than I did the first time around. However I still really enjoyed it - and the slow-burn romance - even though the world-building was poor and very unclear. The second book expanded on the world but was much more meh for me. This third book was the conclusion novel and was equally meh - it was fine, but nothing spectacular. The romance became a bit stagnant and I found the politics to be much more frustrating this time around then the past - and also I found it a bit repetitive of the issues we already encountered in previous books. I was still very bothered by the complete and utter lack of world-building, this is a very strange world Jenkins's has created but we are given absolutely no details about it! It was a fine conclusion to a series, but a 3 star read for me is usually a book that is just fine but not spectacular. I will keep an eye out for Jennifer Jenkins' works though, because she does write quite well and a new indie author is always fun to discover. 

7. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan - 2.5/5 stars
I have heard nothing but good things about Rick Riordan books for years, but I am sad to say that my first venture into his world was a disappointing one. This book, which is not a long book by any means, was a slog to get through and took me 3 months to read! Three months! I rarely bother to continue reading books that take me so long. As I mentioned in my Biggest Disappointments of 2017 (in which I included it because I had finished 70% and knew how I felt), I really hated the way Rick Riordan writes and I think that is why I couldn't connect with the story enough. Plus all his characters talk the same - everyone is snarky and sarcastic, and I just found everyone had the same voice. I did love all the Norse Mythology and Riordan's unique take on it, but not enough to get me to continue the series or picking up any of Riordan's other works. 

8. Cosmos by Carl Sagan (Audiobook, Narrated by Lavar Burton) - 3.5/5 stars

I listened to this on audiobook over the course of a few months - it was definitely a book that you had to be in the mood for. Much like the Cosmos TV show (which I've seen and loved) this is both a science show, mixed with a lot of philosophical questions. Narrated by Lavar Burton, this book is a wonderful listen, and was a great book to relax too when my eyes needed a rest from staring at a computer or at words. However; I did find that it was easy to zone out for some chapters and quite a few times I fell asleep. Most chapters were engaging but some were not, and for that reason my rating is a bit lower. Obviously, when talking about astronomy and physics, not all topics will be the same level of engaging for each reader but I found the later chapters to be much harder to focus on than the earlier ones. I still did enjoy it though, and Lavar Burton has an awesome voice. 

9. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen (Audiobook, Narrated by Katherine Kellegren)- 3.5/5 Stars
I absolutely adored Katherine Kellgren's narration of My Lady Jane, and so I picked this book up on audiobook after giving the sample a listen. Once again, Katherine Kellgren's narration is absolute fantastic. I was completely drawn into the world of Lady Georgie, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and 37th in line for the English throne, and her whirlwind life as a poor royal in 1930s London. I loved Georgie (I like to think of her as Victoria since we share a name) and her upper class life. I loved how she was a broke royal and was working as a maid in disguise to get by. I loved Kellgren's narration and different voices for every character - it was so well-done and distinct that I had no problem discerning who was who. However; I think if I hadn't listened to this on audiobook I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. For a murder mystery novel... the mystery is sort of non-existent. The murder doesn't even happen until almost halfway through the novel, and Georgie doesn't really solve the mystery or engage in solving it until the last couple of chapters. I found the suspect for the murder pretty obvious from the beginning, and by the time the end of the book came along I was getting a bit impatient for the story to wrap up. Overall, the audiobook narration makes a very mediocre murder mystery into something much better - and I may continue the series just to continue listening.  

10. The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman - 4/5 stars

So the first book in this series, The Dark Days Club, was on my Best Books of 2017 list. I absolutely loved the first book, which follows Lady Helen as she discovers she is born to be a rare breed of demon hunter and meets fellow demon-hunter the enigmatic Lord Carlston. Basically the series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Pride and Prejudice and I loved it. The Dark Days Pact picks up directly where the first novel left off, with Lady Helen continuing her demon hunting under the tutelage of Lord Carlston and his aides. While I still really enjoyed the novel, it wasn't necessarily as good as the first one - I think because I had such high expectations going in. I did still love Helen as a character - she is an intelligent bad ass female in an era when women were supposed to be meek and mild. I love her and her determination. However; outside of Carlston and like 2 other male characters the sexism the rest of the men exhibit DROVE ME MAD, though I know it was supposed to. A character from the first book that I didn't care about, I absolutely hated this time around - I really need the Duke to just GO AWAY. He is infuriating. The story wasn't a bit slower paced I found this time, and while I still enjoyed the novel it just wasn't with the fervour I did the first time around. I particularly didn't enjoy the "problems' lord Carlston was having - which just felt like a cop-out plot device to keep the sexual tension from the first book high without really dealing with the romance directly. I do adore the angst-y romance of this novel though, and I love the feminism this I love the feminism this book displays through its capable female characters who stand up to all the asshole men in their life (of which there are a lot and see above the driving me mad part). I also am SO GLAD a gay character was introduced (and that I was 100% right when I guessed it in the first novel). I will continue this series however because the last 20% of the novel was fast-paced and riveting and ended on SUCH A CLIFFHANGER. Like damn, I need to know what happens. Great book, but not as good as the first one. 

11. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - 4/5 stars

I had no plans to read this anytime soon, but I deiced to pick it up one evening when none of the books I was currently reading really caught my eye. I've always loved mythology and retellings but I've never been a big fan of the story of the Trojan War (I blame the movie Troy for making me hate it as a young girl). However; this character-driven tale of the romance between Achilles and his best friend Patroclus, set with the Trojan war in the backdrop was surprisingly good. I read it in one sitting because it was such a beautiful lyrical read, that I simply was swept along with the tale. I absolutely loved the beginning of the story, and it drew me in with its interesting writing style. The writing is really the strength of this novel - it is done in a unique way as to read modern but still capture the essence of Greek Myths and the books of Homer. I did find the story dragged a bit once the story reached the Trojan war, but then again so did most of the Greeks in Troy once the battle had been raging for a decade. I absolutely despised most of the characters, except Patroclus and a few select others - man those Greek heroes are jerks. But still, the beautiful writing and heart-breaking romance more than made up for my genuine dislike for pretty much every character. 

12. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (Audiobook, Narrated by Jim Dale) - 4/5 Stars
This was my classic read for the month of January and I wasn't really expecting to like this as much as I did - I was never a huge fan of Peter Pan as a child, nor is the Disney movie my favourite one (in fact it's probably one of my least beloved). However; the audiobook narrated by Jim Dale really allowed me to appreciate the magic and whimsy of Barrie's words - I loved the narration and it definitely allowed me appreciate the magical and captivating writing of the story. I loved Barrie's depiction of children as selfish monsters (so true) and the third person narrator who informs the readers of little innocuous character details. I loved the heartbreaking ending (heartbreaking to me at least). However; I also did recognise a lot of problematic elements in the story - in part because of the time in which Barrie wrote his story. The depiction of First Nations people is... well it's not great. I found myself uncomfortable listening to it and reading it. Also let's just get it out there - Peter Pan is the worst. He's such an unbelievable little jerk. I liked Captain Hook more than Peter Pan! Despite these elements, I found myself drawn into the story for the most part and loved Jim Dale's narration. I would want to talk to someone though, more knowledgeable than myself on some of the depictions in the novel and see their thoughts. 

13. The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch - 2.5/5 Stars
After buying every single book available in the series last year and finally continuing after the first book, The Hangman's Daughter, I have to say - I'm pretty disappointed. The first book was such a wonderful historical mystery, with lovable if flawed characters. This book however; I felt like all my favourites had changed into negative versions of themselves. Simon was such an idiot in this book! And Magdalena was no longer a beautiful, misunderstood outcast with a hot temper - instead she was the stereotypical jealous woman who hated every other beautiful female. There was so much girl on girl hate in this story - and so much use of the words slut and whore. It really bothered me to hear every female be called slut and whore by so many different male (and female) characters. Maybe I read the first book so long ago I blocked it out, but I felt like this time around the female characters were all terribly written, and so clearly written by a man. The story also didn't read as smoothly - the translation of this novel (from the original German) was very poorly done - so many modern phrases were used! It completely pulled me out of the story. I am giving it 2.5 stars for the world itself and some of the characters (Jakob Kisul is still great) but this book was definitely not as great as the first one. I am sort of regretting picking up the next four books in this series... 

14. A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich  - 4/5 stars
If I were going to have kids and read them history stories before bedtime, I would read them this book. This was such a cute, delightful little history book - that described history and some of the worst historical events in ways that teach people but also sound poetic and tragic. The writing is really such a strength of this novel - it was so beautifully written and made history more like reading a story. I will admit that the book is definitely euro-centric (even as a Canadian I was like um HELLO? Are Australia and North America simply afterthoughts?) but I still enjoyed learning about different parts of Europe (I've really only studied Western European history myself). Obviously the whole world couldn't be covered but I can't give it a perfect star rating given that it white-washes history A LOT. But it was a nice palate cleanser between books and I think would be a wonderful way to introduce kids to history - I myself loved history as a child and used to read encyclopedias so I think I would've adored this. 

15. Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exely - 1/5 Stars
So I read about 60% of this book and then skimmed the rest - I think that still counts as reading it? As I mentioned above, every now and then I like to try out a new indie author to see if they're any good. I had high hopes that this steampunk-esque story in 1800s London would be similar to the Glass and Steele series by CJ Archer. But my god, this book was bad. It was all romance, no plot. Trigger Warnings are necessary because there is so much rape and abuse - and it angered me to no end that this rape and abuse was used as pretty much the sole defining element of the main female character's personality and story. But I really stopped reading when the main characters have sex in a treeYes. You read that right. A fucking tree - like ON A TREE BRANCH. The two main characters have their first time in a tree and the female character decides that she is now cured of all the trauma her childhood rape caused her. And that's when I stopped reading because it was ridiculous and my head exploded. 

16. A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith - 1.5/5 stars
I love anything to do with the Wars of the Roses, and I was absolutely obsessed with Richard III as a character in the Starz TV show The White Queen. However; I found this story, a romance following Richard III and the mother of his bastard children, to be quite dull and simply not the kind of romance I enjoy. There was so much telling instead of showing, and the writing itself was quite simplistic which didn't bring to life the vivid period in which this story is set. And the romance itself - it's like barely in the novel! I didn't enjoy the romance and while I applaud the author for allowing Richard III to be faithful to his Queen, it did mean the last third of the novel fell flat because the main love interests stopped being in love... and were just sort of there. I wasn't even sad with the tragic ending because I knew it was coming, but I also wasn't invested in the characters. This is very much historical-fiction lite, with none of the research and substance that I usually enjoy in such novels, and none of the engagement and emotion I usually have towards historical tragic tales. 

Books I Bought
# of Books I Bought: 44

Okay, so I was really bad this month and did not follow my Bookish Resolution to not buy books AT ALL. I didn't buy as many as I normally do, and I did get quite a few for free or as gifts - but I still bought way too many! Here's hoping in February I try to cut down! 

1.The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Paperback) - I got this from a friends house when she was giving away some books!
2. The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas (Paperback) - same as above, my friend let me go through books she was giving away and I gained this 
3. The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellows (Paperback) - bought with Christmas gift cards. I saw this book had a Downtown Abbey connection and I had to get it
4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black (Hardback) - bought with Christmas gift cards. One of my most anticipated reads of the year. 
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Puffin in Bloom Edition) - bought with Christmas gift cards
6. The Girl in The Tower by Kathrine Arden (Hardback) - bought with Christmas gift cards
7. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (kindle edition) - I've heard such wonderful things about this series that I'm really hoping to discover a new favourite fantasy 
8. The Templars: History & Myth by Michael Haag (KIndle Edition) 
9. Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels (Kindle Edition) - FREE Kindle book
10. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Kindle Edition) 
11. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle Edition)
12. Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (Kindle Edition)
13. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (Kindle Edition) 
14. Nefertiti's Heart by A.W. Exley (Kindle Edition) - FREE Kindle Book 
15. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton(Kindle Edition)
16. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (Kindle Edition)
17. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (Kindle Edition) 
18. Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood  (Kindle edition) - I love Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries the TV show, and this is the book series it is based off of! I can't wait to dive into it 
19. Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind (Kindle Edition) - Sword of Truth series #3
20. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael Page)
21. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (Audiobook, Narrated by Alana Kerr Collins) 
22. Ink Mage by Victor Gischler (Audiobook, Narrated by Fiona Hardingham)
23. In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen(Audiobook, Narrated by Gemma Dawson)
24. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (Audiobook, Narrated by Pearl Mackie)
25. Everything All at Once by Bille Nye (Audiobook, Narrated by Bill Nye)
26. The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (Audiobook, Narrated by Christina Moore)
27. Warlock Holmes by G.S. Dennings (Audiobook, Narrated by Robert Garson)
28. Sherlock Holmes Complete Collection by Sir Arthur Conany Doyle (Audiobook, Narrated by Stephen Fry)
29. Beastly Bones by William Ritter (Audiobook, Narrated by Nicola Barber) - Jackaby Novel #2
30. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Audiobook, Narrated by Anna Massey)
31. The TIme Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Iam Mortimer (Audiobook, Narrated by Jonathan Keeble)
32. Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine (Audiobook, Narrated by Emily Sutton-Smith)
33. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (Audiobook, Narrated by Emilia Fox)
34. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael C. Hall)
35. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Audiobook, Narrated by Anne Hathaway)
36. Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Audiobook, Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds)
37. A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey (Audiobook, Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden)
38. The Gold Son by Carrie-Ann Noble (Audiobook, Narrated by Gerary Doyle 
39. Brave New World by Aldous Huxlexy (Audiobook, Narrated by Michael York) 
40. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (Audiobook, Narrated by Christopher Czenove
41. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (Audiobook, Narrated by Amanda Dolan)
42. The Unseen World by Liz Moore (Audiobook, Narrated by Lisa Flanagan) 
43. Romeo and Juliet: A Novel by David Hewson (Audiobook, Narrated by Richard Armitage)
44. Scythe by Neal Shusterman(Audiobook, Narrated by Greg Tremblay 

So that is my January wrap-up! Hopefully February shapes up to be just as good a reading month (with slightly less book purchases).

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Faebruary Readathon!

So today is February 1st and usually February is the month in which I read all of the romance novels ever, but honestly I've been feeling a book slump coming on and I haven't been able to get into any novels I've picked up. Fortunately for me, on this lovely first day of February I discovered the new readathon called FAEBRUARY! And as soon as I saw the name I was like - YES I'm 100% IN.

So Faebruary is a readathon hosted by Sarah-Jane of The Book Life  - you can see the video announcement of the readathon here or read her blog which outlines Faebruary here.  The point of Faebruary is to read books with the Fae in them for the month of February. I absolutely LOVE faerie books and faeries so I got super excited about this idea (plus I love the pun-tastic name). 

Sarah-Jane has outlined some challenges, that can be casually followed if you wish, but really if you just want to read fae books that is alright as well! The challenges are pretty simple, and you get a point each time you complete one (so if you read multiple books with fae you get a point each time, or if you re-read a fae book) and your points at the end will determine the type of faerie you are. The challenges are: 

1 - Read a book with Fae (the only essential challenge!)

2 - Re-read a fae book you've read before
3 - Buddy read a fae book
4 - Complete the first book in a fae trilogy or series
5 - Join the Goodreads group -
6 - Post a photo, (or video, if you are a Booktuber!) on any social media platform such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube using #faebruary 
7 - Read for 30 minutes a day
8 - Read a fae book by an author you've never read before 
9 - Post a review, either on Goodreads, Amazon, Youtube, a Blog. Reviews help authors!

Faebruary TBR
These are just some of the books I hope to read in Faebruary! Obviously I may get through more, depending on my mood!

1. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black - I just picked this up a like two days ago so now I have an excuse to read it (not that I needed one) 

2. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Mass - I need to finish this series! I loved the first two, but I've heard mixed reviews about the third, and I have a love/hate relationship with Maas books but I'm at least hoping to enjoy the inevitable Feysand moments 

3. Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan - I've been meaning to read this series for years, and now I have no excuse not to pick it up! This is a series which focuses on fey in the court of Elizabeth I - and given that historical fiction and fantasy are my two favourite genres this sounds perfect!

4. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare - I've been in the mood to re-read this series (especially since I bought the 10th Anniversary Edition of City of Bones) and with the presence of the fey this should be a great marathon of a series to do for the month!

Faebruary Suggestions
As I said above I absolutely love fey books and have since like 13. I have been fey trash for over a decade and therefore I have quite a few suggestions for some awesome fey books to read, for those who maybe don't have as many ideas! 

1. Wicked Lovely Series by Melissa Marr - five faerie books of delicious dark fey goodness, politics, and romance. Plus my first ever book crush - Seth!

2. The Falconer Trilogy by Elizabeth May - one of the most underrated YA series with one of the best fey couples I have ever read about! The series gets better with each book!

3. Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning - fey trash in the absolute best way, I highly recommend the first five. 

4. The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa - one of the best known YA fey series I think, and definitely a great one for beginners

5.  Wondrous Strange Trilogy by Lesley Livingston - this was Lesley Livingston's first series written way back in 2009. I haven't re-read it in years but I really loved the blend of modern day fantasy with Shakespearean faeries. My inner Shakespeare nerd was very happy. 

6. The Shadow Reader Trilogy by Sandy Williams - one of my favourite paranormal-uf series ever, absolutely addictive and I marathoned the trilogy in one day. 

7. Shadowfell Trilogy by Juliet Marillier - Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors, and this series is a unique take on fey-legend. It is very romance-light and is a character-driven story about a girl coming to term with her ability to see the fey and control them in a fantasy world where such powers are forbidden. 

8. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black - for anyone who has read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, they need to read this book because it is what got me into Holly BLack's writing and fey-world. It is a captivating story, beautifully written. 

9. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare - do plays count? I hope so. Because this is a classic faerie play. It has inspired so many stories (including one or two on this list)! Plus I am Shakespeare trash and will try to get everyone to read him until the end of time. 

Happy Faebruary! I can't wait to dive into some, hopefully, new favourite fey books!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Books I'm Excited for in 2018

I didn't have a ton of anticipated releases for 2017 for some reason - only a few here or there. I discovered some amazing new series in 2017 though, and can happily say that I now have quite a long list of anticipated releases for 2018! Most of the books I am anticipating are continuations of series I've started, but there are a few standalones. There are also quite a few retellings coming out this year, which is amazing because I absolutely adore retellings! While most of this list is YA, I am still hoping to discover some new adult and non-fiction works this year - and will happily take any recommendations on up and coming books!

1. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black - January 02 2018 
Holly Black's The Darkest Part of the Forest was one of the best books I read in 2017 (Link) and apparently  this book about faeries that is somehow related to that book, so when I heard that rumour this book jumped up to my must reads of 2018. This book follows the story of Jude, whose family was murdered and she and her sisters stolen away to live with the fey. A decade later, Jude wants nothing more to live with the fey, many of whom hate humans - especially Prince Cardan. So we have fey court politics and what is shaping up to be a forbidden romance and I am so in My hopes for this book keep getting higher as I keep reading so many rave reviews on Goodreads, and I'm very stoked to go pick this up and read it. I love faeries, I love faerie romances and I love dark faerie romances so this sounds like it ticks off all the boxes. 

2. Everless by Sara Holland - January 02 2018
This book wasn't on my radar for ages, but after reading some reviews on Goodreads about how surprisingly good it is I've decided to add it to my anticipated reads. Everless takes place in the Kingdom of Sempera - where blood is currency and the rich have it in spades, while the poor - like our main character Jude - are forced to suffer and give their lives away. This premise alone sounds intriguing, but it sounds like there will also be some soap-y drama (like a love triangle, and a manor house full of secrets) that may make this a guilty pleasure read I may love. 

3. A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Rayburn (Veronica Speedwell #3) - January 16 2018
This is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series, which follows the aforementioned Veronica Speedwell, a scientist, and adventuress in 1888 London - who just so happens to have a penchant for getting entangled and solving mysteries. This third book promises to delve more into past of Veronica's colleague Stoker - and I need to find out more about them. This book as so much built up romantic tension between its two main characters that I am dying to see what happens after the last book. The sexual tension you can cut with a knife and I just really want them to get it on in the next book because I will scream FINALLY!

4. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert - January 30 2018 
This books sounds like a dark and twisty fairy tale-esque stories. The book follows Alice, whose grandmother is a famous author of dark fairy-tales that take place in The Hazel Wood. After the woman's death, Alice's mother is taken by what appears to be characters from her grandmother's famous stories. It sounds dark and forboding and the sort of dark fairy story I love. Plus, LOOK AT THE COVER. Even in a photo one can see that it's gorgeous. 

5. Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen- January 30 2018
Shaila, a princess of the desert, sacrifices her happiness to become the Queen of the Bone Lands - a land where elemental magic is forbidden. Before she is even crowned however, Shaila discovers her inherent earth magic abilities - and must deal with hiding these abilities from her elemental-hating husband, while dealing with the politics of her kingdom. I love the idea of elemental magic so I really hope this book is good! I am a bit nervous though that it will be like Roar by Cora Carmack, which I didn't like because it was just so derivative of every other YA fantasy novel. But I'm praying this one is good! 

6. Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller (Daughter of the Pirate King #2) - February 27 2018 
I can't give much away about this book without spoiling the first one (which the title already where Daughter of the Pirate King left off. IN the first novel, we followed Alosa as she was captured - purposely- onto a pirate ship by the orders of her father, the Pirate King, on a dangerous mission to find a legendary map. Along the way she flirts, and fights and snarks her way into the hearts of readers. The first book took me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it - and with how much I couldn't put it down because I needed to see what happened next. I'm excited to see where the story continues, especially because Alosa is just the right amount of snark and spunk I like in a female character without being insufferable. 

7. To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo - March 6 2018
This is a dark re-telling of the Little Mermaid. Now to be honest, The Little Mermaid, and mermaids and general are probably my least favourite folklore and fairy tales - I always find them so disappointing and the Little Mermaid story (both the original fairy tale and the Disney Movie) have always bothered me to know end. However; this retelling - which follows Princess Lira - a lethal siren who has the hearts of seventeen men - sounds promising. The story gets even darker when you find out that the next heart Princess Lira must steal is that of a siren-hunting prince. It sounds dark and twisted and exactly like my kind of fairy tale. 

8. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Illuminae Files #3) - March 13 2018 
I absolutely loved the Illuminae Files in 2017 - I read both Illuminae and Gemina in one sitting and ADORED them. They were so addicted, and had such heart-pounding, have to turn-the-page action. The Illuminae Files are told in a unique manner - told through "found" documents and photos (hence the name files), rather than a traditional narration. While I was sceptical, I found the story-telling style completely captivating in the first two books - which follows the action and adventures following the invasion of a planet by a greedy inter-galactic corporation. I can't give more detail without spoiling the books. Anyways, I NEED THIS BOOK NOW. I am totally anticipating once again staying up all night to read this.

9. The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton - March 27th 2018 
IT'S A KING LEAR RETELLING AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! That is all I need to know - anything Shakespeare and I AM IN

10. Circe by Madeline Miller - April 10th 2018
Look it's an adult book! This book follows the bestselling The Song of Achilles, which I recently read and really enjoyed. The writing was poetic and epic and a delight to read - so I am very excited to see how the next re-telling of a Greek myth goes! This is a re-telling of the greek myth of Circe - which is horribly tragic. Circe is always depicted as a cruel and selfish woman and I am looking forward to seeing how the author captures her dual nature of mother and monster - and whether she will entice sympathy from the reader.  I love Greek Mythology, and I love re-tellings and I LOVE this cover so I am really excited to see how this book is. 

11. A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (Ember in the Ashes #3) - April 24 2018
I love love love this series so far and I have been DYING for this third book for so long - the second book came out in 2016! The first two books in this trilogy were completely addictive. The first book An Ember in the Ashes follows the tale of Elias and Laia - a boy and a girl on opposite ends of a struggle in a a conquered kingdom. Elias is a Martial, one of the powerful Roman-like ruling Elite, while Laia is a Scholar - a dominated peoples, essentially slaves in their own empire. The book is riveting, as is the sequel A Torch Against the Night, which follows the events of the first novel (and thus I can't give you more detail without spoiling it). Both are filled with politics and violence and bloodshed - and very much remind me of like a fantasy version of the TV show Rome. I will be buying this the day it comes out - and I can only hope that the fourth and final book doesn't take two years to come out like this one did! Because I will die, as Sabaa Tahir always ends each book in the most heart-wrenching ways.

12. The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst (Queens of Renthia #3) - May 15 2018
This is the third book in the Queens of Renthia series - so I can't give much of a synopsis without spoiling the first two books. This series takes place in the land of Renthia, where everything has a spirit - everything is alive - and unfortunately, everything in nature pretty much wants to kill all the humans and turn the land wild. To prevent this, a Queen is chosen from a select group of girls - skilled in the power to control the wild nature spirits. The first book in this series was brutal and pulled no punches and I loved it. It was a great fantasy - and it was actually a fantasy with only a bit of romance. I plan to read the second book in the series this year - and I'm sure it will be equally unforgiving and amazing. This series is really underrated so I hope this year more people pick it up - it is well thought out, well written and the world is something you get lost in - and don't get attached to any characters. 

13Sweet Black Waves by Kristin Perez - June 05 2018 
This is yet another re-telling on the list! This is a Tristan and Isolde re-telling - but instead of following Isolde, we follow her lady-in-waiting Branwen - who also loves Tristan. Yes, this has a love triangle (I think) - but given the nature of the Tristan and Isolde myth I am intrigued to see how the "love potion" aspect of the story plays out. It says to aspect star-crossed lovers so I am expecting all the angsty romance, and hopefully a tragic tale (in keeping with the legend). I also clearly have a thing for retellings. Plus, there aren't enough Celtic retellings so this is definitely something new to look forward too!

14. My Plain Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows (The Lady Janies #2) June 26 2018 
My Lady Jane was one of the biggest surprises of 2016 for me and I reread it in 2017, and I can just categorically say that I love it. And I'm even more excited to see the twists that the authors will make on this retelling of Jane Eyre - I absolutely loved Jane Eyre so I am both apprehensive but equally excited. This Jane Eyre retelling will have a supernatural twist (as stated on the cover - Jane sees dead people) just like My Lady Jane, and hopefully it will be as funny and charming as the supernatural twist in of shape-shifters in My Lady Jane.

15. Mary B  by Katherine J. Chen - July 2018
This is a Pride and Prejudice retelling following the perspective of poor overlooked, plain middle sister Mary. And I am HERE FOR IT. I don't know why I keep trying to read Pride and Prejudice retellings or continuations or adaptations when I pretty much hate them all but I can't help but hope that one day I will find one that is amazing and captures the original magic of the stories. If not, at least this is another book to add to my ever growing Pride and Prejudice shelf. 

16. Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson - August 07 2018 
I enjoyed the Remnant Chronicles series by Mary E. Pearson enough that I'm excited to see how this story about a thief and an emperor and forbidden love set in the same universe. It sounds like pretty standard YA but will hopefully be addictive. 

17. Lady Helen #3 by Alison Goodman - September 2018 

I just finished the second book in the Lady Helen Series, The Dark Days Pact - and while not as good as the first - I still need this third book because it ENDED ON A CLIFFHANGER and I need to see what happens - I predict the angst will be high in this book and I am going to love it. 

18. Final Throne of Glass Book by Sarah J Mass - September 04 2018 

I have yet to read Empire of Storms  or Tower of Dawn, but I really want to finish the Throne of Glass series. Even though I have such a love-hate relationship with the series, I am hoping it ends on a high note. I probably won't buy it right away, I'll wait until reviews come out. But I will probably hated read this just to see how everything ends.  

19. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (Guides #2) - October 02 2018 
This is the sequel to The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue except this time we are following Monty's sister, Felicity, who was a badass in the first book. And because of the mention of Pirates I do so hope that means my favourite pirate characters will be returning! And I want to see how Monty and Percy are faring after the first novel! The first book was so surprisingly funny and fun that I can't wait for another joyous romp with this series. 

20. Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (The Dark Artifices #3)December 04 2018  
The story of Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family concludes in this final book of the Dark Artifices trilogy. I've really been enjoying this trilogy - much more so than The Mortal Instruments (but not as much as The Infernal Devices). The angst-y romance between Emma and Julian is my life, and the ending to the last book gutted me and ended on such a cliffhanger that I need to know!